In February of this year the Washington State Legislature passed a bill (SB6617) that would shield all its records from public view. Their move came in response to a request from the media to learn about sexual assault allegations in the capital, and a judge’s ruling that they had violated the public records act. Lawmakers did this in the face of the #metoo movement, and it is impossible to not see their move as a way to save themselves because they had something to hide. The bill did not simply shield future records, it sealed all previous records from ever being disclosed, and it removed judicial review. Essentially the legislature was saying, “we’ve lied and hid things from you in the past, but you should trust us now.”
Once the legislature realized that the move was widely unpopular, they engaged in a political stunt and “begged” the governor to veto the bill. The Governor obliged, but instead of complying with the judge’s original ruling, the legislature decided to promise to create a taskforce to determine what records should be shared. A taskforce that still hasn’t met.
The legislature also hasn’t created an office to deal with the sexual assault allegations at the root of the lawsuit, despite a promise to do so. All while championing their ability to prevent sexual harassment in other workplaces, but that is another issue.
It is a tale as old as time. Someone in a position of power is caught doing something bad, so they change the rules to protect themselves. By voting for SB6617, and not pushing for more open government, Rep. Cindy Ryu is complacent in the coverup. Sadly, this move to closed government does not seem to be confined to Olympia. Both Seattle and Tacoma have recently run into public records/open meetings problems. We need representative who will fight for transparency. A representative who will do the right thing and fight to let the public know what is happening in their government.